In January of this year, I had seen The XX in concert after hearing about them for almost four years. I liked their show a lot. What it lacked in variety, it made up for in the coherence of its shoegazing, low pressure vibe. When I saw the debut album of The XX in the used bins at Harvest during their anniversary sale [a month ago!] I bit, even though the used copy was eight dollars for the privilege. The cheapskate in me wants albums to be five dollars or less, but I purchased anyway!
#8 • The XX: XX UK CD 
- Heart Skipped A Beat
- Basic Space
- Night Time
The album hit its pace immediately with the brilliantly named instrumental “Intro.” Romy Croft’s lonely guitar recalls the last hurrah period of Post-Punk with a definite feel of 1983 with Echo + The Bunnymen ascendent and The Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie right around the corner. The tone she used reminds me of Barney Sumner’s sound from New Order of this period, but filtered through a shoegaze filter that affects the vocal delivery, but not the clean, elegant guitar tone. Live, I can’t recall seeing Croft ever hit a pedal, in stark contrast to groups like Lush.
The one XX song I’d heard before seeing them was when OMD covered “VCR” and made it sound like one of their own, at least the music. The XX’s version ironically, has what sure sounds like the same Selmer Pianotron that provided OMD’s “Electricity” with its kalimba-like hook. Of course Romy and Oliver Sim’s vocals couldn’t be more different from OMD’s. They never turn the heat up, and both of them affect the same almost smacked out vibe of early Rickie Lee Jones with their low energy vocalizing.
The album maintains an even pace with almost motorik drumming moving the songs along briskly while the vocals glided over the top, but “Fantasy” opts for a Cocteau Twins “Victorialand” vibe with a dearth of beats [forgetting, for the moment, that Les Cocteaus were known to punish a drum machine or two in their day] and just the tones of the guitars pealing through the atmospheric haze.
The album hits its peak with “Infinity” having almost a reggae skank as the basis of its rhythm that contrasts mightily with the lashings of electro whipcracks and lightly dusted bongo drums. The last two tracks coast the album to its peaceful end and while it’s not a case of a night on the town waiting to happen, the band manage to occupy that heavy-lidded, late night in the bedroom vibe like few others in this period. When it’s past 2 am and you just don’t feel like sleeping, this music is perfect accompaniment to your proto-somnolent activities. I’ll have to get their new one, “Coexist.”
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